Saturday, March 25, 2017

The dying of the white working class

 “Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they write.
This is from a new study  by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton which reaffirms the findings of their 2015 research: the working class white people are dying younger. This time, the researchers see a connection between these deaths and the disappearance of a socio-economic role of a working class.
The alarming fact isn't just that middle-aged whites are dying faster, but also that mortality rates have been dramatically declining in nearly every other rich country. The United States is getting left behind.
In the last 15 years, a chasm opened up between middle aged whites in America and citizens of European countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. While white death rates in America rose slightly, death rates in those other countries continued to plummet. In comparison to what happened in Europe, the situation for American whites starts looks much more dire — and it's a bigger problem than opioids or suicides can explain. It's not just about what went wrong in America, but what stopped going right.
Fifteen years ago, middle-aged whites in the United States were neck and neck with their German counterparts. Now, middle-aged white Americans are 45 percent more likely to die than middle-aged Germans.
As Case and Deaton show, the gap in mortality between white middle-aged Americans and middle-aged Germans is about 125 deaths per 100,000 people now. Every year, of 100,000 Germans between the ages of 45 and 54, about 285 die. In the United States, it's more than 410.
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Out of those 125 additional American deaths, only about 40 might be explained by the spike in deadly drug use, drinking and suicides. And the rest? It’s hard to say. In their latest paper, Case and Deaton say that heart disease is part of the problem. While other countries have cut down heart disease deaths by over 40 percent in the past 15 years, heart disease remains a significant killer for white middle-aged Americans.
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There’s still much left unexplained, but the latest data tell a larger — and more troubling — story. Most of the increase in white deaths is concentrated among those who never finished college. These are the same people who have been pummeled by the economy in recent decades. It’s gotten more difficult for them to find jobs, and what jobs they do come across nowadays don’t pay as well.
Yet, it's not entirely a matter of income either. Some of these same economic trends — driven by globalization and automation — afflicted countries like the U.K. and Germany, where the death rate has been dropping. Besides, according to a Washington Post analysis of recent Census Bureau data, white American men without a college degree still earn 36 percent more than their black counterparts. But the death rate among less-educated black Americans has actually been decreasing. In recent years, the two groups have converged — they are dying at about the same rate — even though white Americans still earn more

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